Collierville woman to serve 30 days for fatal crash on 17th birthday

Alejandra Sanchez-Ponce (Source: family)
Alejandra Sanchez-Ponce (Source: family)

COLLIERVILLE, TN (WMC) - The Collierville woman who killed a woman and injured several others in a crash while she was a teen will serve 30 days in prison.

Sterling Panchikal was driving down Bill Morris Parkway on May 2, 2015, when she hit and killed Alejandra Sanchez-Ponce, 47. Three others were also injured in the crash, including Sanchez-Ponce's daughter.

According to investigators, Panchikal was traveling eastbound when her vehicle crossed over the grass median, hit a cable barrier, and went into the westbound lanes. Her car hit two other vehicles head-on. A fourth vehicle was hit by debris from the crash.

Investigators discovered vodka, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia in her vehicle.

In October 2015, investigators decided to charge Panchikal as a juvenile for vehicular homicide, DUI, and reckless endangerment.

However, Panchikal was indicted in May 2017 on charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

In addition to 30 days in prison, she will face six years of probation and receive four felony convictions on her record.

Yesenia Ramirez-Sanchez was 10 when her mother died.

"She deserved more time and many years in jail because she took someone really important from me," Yesenia said. "My sister, she was 4 at the time and she needs her mother and I need my mother and she just killed her."

The family of Alejandra Sanchez-Ponce can't believe Panchikal will spend only 30 days behind bars for the death of the mother of 13 children.

Her family said she raised the children by herself.

"It's been hard for us," son Eduardo Rubio said. "We used to spend all the holidays with her and have like some good times. Now she left. It's been hard."

Panchikal crossed the median and slammed into the car driven by Sanchez-Ponce, killing her and injuring her pregnant daughter and two other people in the car.

Sanchez-Ponce had just left work as a housekeeper at a motel.

Investigators believe Panchikal was texting her friend about getting high on marijuana and Xanax the night before at a music festival.

"The blood test showed she was negative for alcohol," prosecutor Abby Wallace said. "She did have some marijuana in her system, but it was a minimal amount not enough for impairment."

Wallace said it would have been difficult to prove vehicular homicide the initial charge.

"We have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt," Wallace said.

Panchikal pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and four counts of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon.

A text message that investigators believe Panchikal was sending was not actually sent, so there is no timeline and Panchikal was not speeding.

Wallace wanted Panchikal to serve more time.

She was actually sentenced to two years, but Judge Chris Craft ruled she would do 30 days behind bars because she has no record, and she had a tough upbringing, as well as mental illness issues.

"I forgive her," Eduardo said.

The family also knows a longer sentence will not give them their mother.

"It's not gonna bring her back," Eduardo said.

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